Entrepreneurship – the time is nowIn my view, easier availability of early-stage capital than ever before, public celebration &adulation of entrepreneurial heroes, a well-deserved respect for entrepreneurism andalso society‟s willingness to accept failures in entrepreneurial ventures make it easier foryounger people to consider entrepreneurship as a career.I share below some observations that will hopefully provide some food for thought beforeyou embark on your entrepreneurial journey. Enterprises have to be built around a concept that has a meaningful value proposition to your potential customers and around which you can build a strong, sustainable business model. Entrepreneurs tend to overlook the challenges when they are driven either by a desire to be an entrepreneur or when a concept stokes their interest. Often, entrepreneurs assume that a business plan is to be written only when you seek venture capital or debt. However, a business plan is nothing but your plan for your business and in order to manage your enterprise you need to be able to create a document using some framework that helps you think through the steps you need to take in your entrepreneurial journey. Don‟t focus on the excel sheet. Focus on the business model. A 5-year excel sheet projection is just that – an excel sheet exercise. It is neither a reflection of the potential nor a reflection of your ability to meet that milestone. However, an excel sheet exercise provides you a reference point to consider different possibilities of scale and help you plan the intermediate steps in reaching those milestones. I.e. is it not important to detail the calculation for a Rs.98.74 cr revenue by 2012 as it is important to be able to state “We believe we can be around a Rs.75 cr to a Rs.100 cr. enterprise by year 2012 and here is how we plan to go towards those milestones”.
It is ideal to gain experience about building and managing businesses before you create your own enterprise. Most successful entrepreneurs have built businesses after gaining significant experience across functions in different organizations. Though often celebrated, entrepreneurial successes of people with no prior work experience are a rarity. One of the most common observations of investors, both domestic and foreign, is that entrepreneurs in India are afraid of thinking big. They tend to think it is prudent to be very conservative in your projections, especially if you have no past record to prove your scaling-up capabilities. However, unless you are creating a life-style concept, it will be important to provide a true picture of the potential and your aspirations, especially if you are seeking venture capital. Of course, the aspiration to scale has to be based on a validated assessment of the potential and backed by a strong, sustainable plan to deliver on that potential. Your ability to scale should be restricted only by your aspiration and not by capital. In today‟s environment, it is far easier to raise early-stage capital than ever before. If your concept is right, if the market potential is large and if you have the capacity and capabilities to deliver on that potential, you will find the capital to fund your dream.On the other hand, if a number of investors reject your proposal, it should be a signalfor you to consider what aspects of the model seem to worry investors – relevance ofvalue proposition, market potential, business model or your ability to deliver on thepotential. Once you have identified the issue or issues, you need to revisit that inyour plan and see what changes you may want to make in order to address anyflaws in your plan. Just because you do not get funded does not mean it is a bad idea or your plan is wrong. Often, especially with new concept, it is difficult for investors to take a bold step. It is therefore also important for you to find investors who have a strong belief in the domain that you wish to be in and convince them about your ability to deliver on that potential. If you still do not get funded and do believe it is
a concept worth fighting for, you need to find innovative ways of building a proof of concept.Importantly, don‟t be a lone ranger. Connect with other entrepreneurs. Seek guidance.Ask those ahead in the entrepreneurial journey to share their experiences. Organizationslike TiE offer excellent opportunities to network and seek mentoring from accomplishedand successful entrepreneurs.To end, I would like to clarity that entrepreneurship to my mind is not just about startingor owning an enterprise. It is about an entrepreneurial spirit that inspires individuals totake ownership of an assignment of area of responsibility. It does not matter whether it isin your own enterprise or whether in an organization where you work or whether theorganization is a commercial enterprise or a not-for-profit entity. Do well in whatever youchoose to do. Do it diligently, honestly, ethically and with enthusiasm and commitment.And THINK BIG.As the advertisement of a spirits brand says „Its your life, make it large‟.Prajakt has over 23 years of experience as an entrepreneur, marketing professional andbusiness strategy consultant. Prajakt primarily consults early stage companies on strategy,focusing on business model & monetization and on creating processes to prepare thecompany for growth.Prajakt is the co-founder of Orange Cross, a healthcare services management companyand an internet based venture, currently in stealth mode.Prajakt can be reached on email@example.com